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    Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Logo
  • Study Type

    Full time & Part time available

  • Subject Areas

    Sociology

  • Start Date

    October

  • Course Duration

    1 year full time, 2 years part time

  • Course Type

    MSc

  • Course Fees

    website

  • Last Updated

    07 November 2018

Our MSc Social Research Methods is designed to give you an in-depth understanding of the full methodological toolkit available to social science researchers. These skills are in high demand, and many of our graduates go on to work in research agencies such as the Office for National Statistics, Ipsos Mori and the Home Office, while others go on to study for a PhD.

We have an unrivalled research methods heritage, and our teaching is backed by decades of experience. We were the first in the UK to run this type of course in 1974.

What you will study

This course gives equal priority to quantitative and qualitative approaches, and begins with a comprehensive overview of the research essentials. This includes the formulation of research questions and the connections of theory and method, as well as the core data collection approaches and secondary data sources available to researchers, and the main analytic techniques.

Once you’ve established the foundation skills for advanced social research, in the second semester you’ll select four modules from a suite of advanced methods courses taught intensively in week-long modules. We designed this innovative modular format to give you an in-depth understanding of particular research techniques, combining structured lectures with practical workshops in our in-house computer lab. It enables you to fully immerse yourself in particular research approaches, while also providing an effective structure for us to build advanced understanding. This also allows you to tailor your learning experience, focusing more closely on qualitative or quantitative options.

Professional recognition

Economic and Soical Research Council (ESRC)

This is recognised by the ESRC as a research training MSc degree, making it ideal if you are seeking ESRC funding for a PhD.

Study and work abroad

There may be opportunities to acquire valuable European experience by working or conducting research abroad during your degree or shortly afterwards. It is possible to do this in the summer period with an Erasmus+ grant working on your dissertation or as a recent graduate. In order to qualify your Erasmus+ traineeship must be a minimum of two months.

Aims of the course

Our approach to learning and teaching is shaped by a clear philosophy: the need for sound conceptualisation, methodological rigour and sophistication, and technical competence. We also emphasise research-led teaching, as all of our module convenors are skilled users of advanced methods.

Our main aims are to:

  • Provide you with an understanding of the core quantitative and qualitative approaches to social science research at an advanced level
  • Introduce you to the range of cutting-edge methodology (including complex systems approaches, social network analysis, and advanced qualitative analysis) that are increasingly being utilized in the social sciences
  • Cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating these into practicable research designs
  • Expose you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and to debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits of objectivity
  • Develop skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the presentation of research results and in verbal communication
  • Develop skills in the use of R, and in the main statistical techniques of quantitative data analysis
  • Develop skills in the use of software for the analysis of qualitative data
  • Help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination
  • Provide an appropriate training for students moving on to MPhil/PhD level study, or for students going on to employment involving the use of social science research.

Work experience

On the MSc Social Research Methods, we offer you the opportunity to take up to four weeks of work experience during the Easter vacation. This will provide you with first-hand experience of large-scale and real-life research in action. In the past, students have found placements with organisations such as the National Centre for Social Research, the ESRC Data Archive, the Home Office, and Surrey County Council. In some cases, the placement may be with research projects being undertaken within a university context, including the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey.

Where the full period is not practical, as may be the case for part-time students, it is also possible to take up the opportunity of a shorter period of two to four weeks, usually during the summer.

Placements are not guaranteed, but our placement officer will work with you to identify possible placement opportunities.

Residential conference

This course includes a weekend Residential Conference, usually in November, held in a nearby hotel. This provides an opportunity, in an informal atmosphere, for discussion concerning current research issues and debates, technologies and methods at the forefront of social research, and other related themes. The conference programme includes lectures from guest speakers and members of staff, seminars, workshops and small group discussions.

You are not required to attend the conference to complete the course, but it’s strongly encouraged. Students are not directly charged for attending.


Visit the Social Research Methods (MSc) page on the University of Surrey website for more details!

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